There is a time, Ecclesiastes tells us, for all things. Three thousand years later, Pete Seeger and Judy Collins made it official.

There is a time to march, and there is a time to organize.

Anyone who has lived in Evanston for more than a New York minute knows that we are as civically engaged as any community in America. Evanstonians by the hundreds if not thousands flocked to the rallies in Chicago and Washington.

No doubt there will be more rallies, more protests, more phone calls and letter-writing campaigns. And Evanston will be there.

This is as it should be in a vibrant, engaged republic.

But there is another season ahead, one that is harder and, arguably, more important. And that is to organize, to commit, to rededicate ourselves and renew our responsibility to the challenging work of finding and fielding good candidates for public office. That is the nuts and bolts of democracy, and the basis for our “unalienable rights” to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Not just a right, mind you, but a privilege and a responsibility. For far too long Americans have relinquished their duty to make our system better. We have ceded our responsibilities to the self-serving and narrow-minded politicians of both parties. Cases in point: Springfield, Illinois, and Washington D.C.

If we learned one thing on Nov. 8 it was that half of America distrusts and hates the other half. It is time to change that poisonous paradigm. It is time to fix a system that seems to be broken and dysfunctional. It is time to get down to work.

That is why it was such a gladsome sight, on Feb. 4, to see an overflow crowd turn up at the Civic Center for the mayoral forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. So many people showed up the room had to be changed to accommodate everyone.

There are five candidates for mayor. Each spoke for several minutes at the open and close of the 65-minute session, and in between fielded questions from the audience.

They spoke with passion, conviction, and intelligence. Each has wide-ranging experience and qualifications, from the fields of law, business, and civic engagement. Two are aldermen. One was Township Supervisor. One started a firm that has grown exponentially. Another started his own business as well. One was born and raised in Evanston. One is an environmental authority. One was a consultant to municipal government and an expert in disaster preparedness…a former community organizer and current chief of staff to the Cook County Commissioner…assistant corporation counsel under Harold Washington and Democratic Party committeeman…board president and volunteer… university teacher and faculty advisor. And on and on.

If you are curious to match the candidate with the qualifications, look up their web sites. Check these pages for their profiles. Read their vision and policy statements. Volunteer. Go door-to-door. That is the kind of marching that really counts.

Because it comes down to this, as the candidates themselves pointed out: if we make Evanston better, we make America better.

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...